A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: The Priority Balancing Act

by Amber Lea Starfire on August 20, 2012

Balancing ActI’m having one of those times. You know—when it’s difficult to keep track of where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what you need to do next. And when I find myself here, in the middle of one of these times, I know that I’ve been letting my commitments rule me instead of ruling my commitments. I’ve spun out of control.

When my mind is this muddled, I sometimes have trouble remembering what’s most important, and I have a tendency to ask “how high?” when someone tells me to jump.  Fortunately, I can recover my focus and sense of control by clarifying my priorities and then keeping those priorities in mind whenever I make a decision, asking: Does this decision or action contribute to my priorities or distract from them?

So I turn to journal writing for a number of reasons: writing calms me, slows me down, allows me to stop my spinning world so I can get off; writing helps me process my jumble of thoughts in whatever manner they happen to tumble from my mind, without judgment or inner criticism; writing helps me acknowledge my feelings; and finally, writing helps me see and understand problems in new ways, which in turn helps me to approach life (and my priorities) more creatively.

This week’s journaling prompts—or should I say processes—are designed to help you and me clarify values and priorities and get back on track, doing whatever it is we really want and love to do.

  1. Of the many activities you did today and yesterday, which did you love most? Why? What needs were filled? For example, if you wrote down that you most loved playing games with your children, perhaps it filled your need for play, a need to slow down and be in the moment, a need to nurture, or all three. Then, of the activities you did today and yesterday, write about what you most hated or resented doing. Why? What values or needs did that action cross or prevent from being filled?
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  2. Turn your page sideways (landscape mode) and divide it into 5 columns.
    • In the first column, write a list of all the “have-to’s” in your life; include both the things you enjoy and the things you do not enjoy doing.
    • In the 2nd column, next to each item write down all the reasons you choose to do that particular have-to. What major goal does completing that item help accomplish?
    • In the 3rd column, score, on a scale of 1-10 where 1 = not important and 10 = extremely important, how important completing that item is to your well-being or accomplishment of a larger goal.
    • In the 4th column score, on a scale of 1-10 where 1 = don’t enjoy and 10 = fully enjoy, how much you enjoy doing that activity.
    • In the 5th column add the two scores together. Review your list and the scores. Write a paragraph or two about what you notice.
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  3. Imagine you are now limited to only five activities per day (other than sleeping, eating, or bathing). For the next month, those are the only activities you will be allowed to perform. Look over the list you made in prompt #2. What can you give up? What do you feel you couldn’t or wouldn’t give up for any reason? Circle the five activities you’ll keep. Write about what your life will be like.
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  4. Now, narrow your life down even further. You’ve been told that you have to give up one of these precious five activities. Which one will you slash? How will you give it up and why? Repeat this exercise until you have only one activity left. You have now prioritized your top five activities.
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  5. Make a Creative Cluster using your list of top five activities as the nucleus. Read the directions for clustering and be sure to complete the entire exercise, through the freewriting portion.
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  6. After completing prompts #1-#5, what do you notice about how your values and needs intersect with your priorities. How do you feel? Do you feel more clear and focused, or confused? Do you notice that you tend to keep those top five activities as priorities in your life, or do they tend to get lost in other demands? What helps you or prevents you from maintaining clarity of focus on your priorities.
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  7. Write three ways you will maintain your focus on your top priorities. For example, you might decide that one way is to put a post-it note on your mirror or on your computer. Select at least two to three items from your list from prompt #2 that you will let go of or stop doing this week.

I would love to hear from you. What did you discover through the process of journal writing this week?

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Image Credit: Thomas Hawk
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amber Lea Starfire August 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Quick note – update: When I did prompt #2, I noticed that I actually perform each of my “have-to” activities in the order of priority as defined by the importance + enjoyment score total—not necessarily in the order of importance alone. That’s something to think about.

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